The time has come for my patient, long-standing readers, who know me fairly well, to come up with an interesting job title and a tangible, realistic description of what I’d be doing. If you can be even more specific, feel free to suggest suitable organisations (profit or nonprofit) where I can best contribute through my interests, background and training.
I’m halfway through my course, and in a couple of weeks’ time I’d be 60% done. Doing a compressed masters in a very international environment with high achievers has give me much thought on what I like (and not like) to do. On my official CV, my education and actual work don’t seem to correspond. A law degree, and by July, an MBA? How on earth did I end up in social media? :P
Presumably, the bosses who hired me believed that having such a background would be useful… that I’d be different from the usual and I certainly hope that’s been the case.
In school, I’ve already taken personality tests in class and gone for career counselling and know roughly what type of work and environment would attract me. Personality-wise, I’m a borderline ENFJ (Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging) that can morph into an ENTJ if everyone else is too touchy-feely/female/both. I work like I play in a jazz band - seeking a balance, not having too much of any one style. I’d like to think that the people I’ve worked with very closely in the office have given me LinkedIn recommendations not just because they felt compelled to, but because they did find that I added value to our work and made it fun as well.
However, I’m asking for your suggestions right now as I’m seeking a good fit for the next company, department, job description. I know no job will match what we want, exactly. Likewise, no person is a 100% fit for any job. The aim is for both sides to find the best fit and make the best out of it. I don’t want a job that gives me an incredibly fat salary if I feel incompetent and/or if it ruins people’s lives. (I struck out “Fat cat finance” in my checklist ages ago)
In my case, I feel like I’ve been everywhere, partly because I and another long-suffering teammate had to service the entire organisation for some time, resulting in us working with lots of people, which turned out to be a blessing as well. On the same note, my social and work style is not to stick with only one group of people (e.g. my own department) but to mingle around and hear different views on the same issue. At work, I wasn’t just doing my own projects. I’d be chatting with the PR folks to see if we could announce anything interesting (and I still disturb them from time to time when I visit the office). I’d be sounding out a far-out idea with internal clients who were open to trying new things. Sometimes I found myself getting pulled into meetings to inject fresh ideas and come up with a catchy tagline. I liked being in the thick of the action, brainstorming and starting new things.
Yet at the same time I knew I couldn’t just continue like this without a focus. What was my career plan? I think I was more than a Jack of All Trades, but typically, in organisations you’re departmentalised into a role with a job description and KPIs to meet. We’re also not expected to be spread out everywhere. We’re evaluated on our core functions, which is why some people don’t see why they need to meet more people than necessary or contribute beyond the allocated KPIs.
But I believe that first knowing everyone’s position is important to improving relationships, and that itself takes time to establish. That would go beyond simply showing up for work and getting a checklist of tasks done. But things changed. Which is why I decided to step out for a while and develop my knowledge in areas I felt I was lacking in.
But so far, I think I’ve also been fortunate. Fortunate to have been seen as interesting enough to be interviewed many times by the local media. Fortunate to have been approached by bosses of various companies in the new media/PR industries with job offers. It was flattering, but I wanted to play a deeper, more strategic role rather than just taking the product/service as a given and start marketing it from there.
I also wondered if I should become a consultant. A brilliant groupmate from a top consultancy thought I could certainly work as a consultant, which was encouraging. However, an INSEAD career profile test indicated that I wanted more ‘control’ - not in the micromanaging sense (hell no!) but that I wanted to see things to the end, to make sure that my solutions were implemented and had a positive impact. That’s not necessarily part of the deal as an external consultant. So I’m thinking that an in-house role would be ideal. But what kind of job title and description would that be, and if it did exist, in times like these, would anyone be hiring?
I’ve been recently excited at the prospect of having a chance of working overseas, in a reputable institution that everyone would know of. I’d leap at this. But more importantly, beyond such opportunities, the big question is what I really want to do for the rest of my life, not just in the next few years. I feel this goes beyond just having some cushy job titles and big company names that look nice on your CV - it’s what you’d think about on your deathbed!
It really is a big question, and I dare say not many of us know for sure, either. Those of us currently working in a decent company may aim to move up the ladder within that company, or move to a similar role in another organisation. But do many of us really have a lifelong career plan? Some of us (particularly women) may have plans but then decide to become full-time parents. I can see the value in that as well.
For now, I need to find something that I love doing so much that I’d jump out of bed every day filled with enthusiasm. I myself know how that feels. I liked my old job so much - at least for the first couple of years - that I once told people I had just met at a dinner even if I wasn’t paid, I would show up. They were stunned to hear anyone saying that. Back then, I was running on a high, having autonomy and flexibility to produce what I wanted, checking back for advice to make sure I was on the right track. That helped me to innovate, which I love doing - launching in-house experiments like the very first podcast by a Government agency.
I’ve looked back on how things changed, and that’s helped me separate what factors made my experience happier, and what factors I could do with less of. Not to say anything is better or worse because someone with a different personality might prefer the work. I just wanted to keep on learning new things and develop my career. At that point I felt I had to take it upon myself, and again was blessed to get into a top business school (now ranked #4 by the FT!). The question however that I and my classmates are facing is, now what? Some of us have options to return to our old jobs, which is a very useful BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) but times are hard and we’re less likely to switch careers or find a dream job. And those looking for a big salary and perks may have to put off their ambitions for a while.
At the same time I forsee the need to step up in my career, just as my parents are winding down. So there are many issues at play. I know I have to prioritise things, but if I write something down on paper now I might cancel it out later (still, I’ll write something anyway… better than nothing).
Many things can still happen. I’ll be doing a Social Venture study trip next period and I’m keeping options open. As time passes I get better ideas of what I like doing, what I can do well (hopefully the twain can meet) and, definitely, what I don’t like doing.
Over to you…. tell me what you think!